Sunday, September 16, 2012

Time to Quit Tossing the Labels Around

You would think that among Christians, it would be enough to be called by the name of Christ. The name assumes a spirit of generosity that too many of us Christians reject in favor of other names like orthodox, progressive, contemplative, confessing, liberal, reform, conservative, Bible believing, fundamentalist, emergent, evangelical, etc., etc, etc.!

I know, the genius of our growth is how we can divide and multiply. Jesus is incarnated in any and all cultures. So we've also come up with lots of proper pronouns to delineate our historic differences, like Independents, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics, Protestants, Nondenominational, and so on.

There's no use pretending a unity that isn't there, but isn't it enough challenge just to be known as a follower of Jesus, enough blessing to be one of Christ's own, enough grace to be made in God's image and in God' love? Why isn't this better than any confining label?

The great preacher and United Methodist Bishop, Emerson Colaw correctly stated that continued use of labels among Christians is inaccurate, because there's little agreement on what any label actually means. Many of these labels are theological flavors of the moment, about belonging, or about power over others. Labels rarely tell us anything about someone's integrity or lack of it. What can a label possibly say about a person's spiritual health or disease? Whether I've been living in light or darkness?

We find an infinite number of ways to make it all about ourselves. Dropping labels would mean that we no longer have them to hide behind. It would also mean doing the hard work of study, prayer, and self examination, being open to uncovering wisdom in new and different places, and being more faithful as a result of our searching and finding. This isn't about picking and choosing. It is about surrendering our fascination with labels to Christ. "Christian" makes it more about Jesus Christ, not ourselves.

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